TOMBOY BOOKCLUB- ORLANDO!!!

When I made an instagram page to promote this blog (@tomboypress), I started a feature called Tomboy Bookclub (including cute pictures of my animal companions and what I think they would say aha). I gave my general opinions on books I had read and liked, they weren’t indepth at all- so I’ve decided to bring the feature PROPERLY here, and to start a-fresh with the book that incubated it all… ORLANDO!!! A classic with changing genders, Woolf hounds (see what I did there- aha), poetry written in berries and a life that lasts 400 years!

This Woolfian mock-biography is known as one of the longest love letters in literary history, and knowing that tid-bit does make reading more endearing- get rid of all the indepth analysis that can be done on Orlando’s sprawling ancient mansion, or the cryptic scene of their gender swap, and even if you don’t understand all the wierdness of the book, it’s still interesting to imagine the similarities between Vita ( Virginia’s lover aside from Leonard, and her inspiration for this book) and Orlando; what Virginia noticed and remembered about her to later transform into further fictions.

The elements of this book that interest me most- aside from it’s beautiful prose and hilarious narrative in general- are the ways it presents the natural world in its relation with human emotion. How as a youth up until the last chapter, Orlando returns to their favourite Oak tree to try and spit out the truth of their heart’s love; rewriting, scribbling over old lines to make an almost illegible Ode. Yet, in settings of their courtly mansion or in town, Orlando changes subtly from the romantic poet, to the aloof yet popular socialite with a reputation for public grandeur and wealth- not hiding in tree trunks. Despite the huge changes of gender and historical era Orlando experiences, I still kind of feel the biggest changes in Orlando come with the tensions of public status in their community VS what Orlanndo actually wants to express when in the clear-mindedness of reflection in nature.

For example, Orlando never really feels the urge/ desperation/obligation to marry (despite forlorn hankerings for romance) until the Victorian era. But one day, they freak out and declare they will only be nature’s bride. It is at this moment, the moment of resolute decision in the wilds of wind and moss, that Orlando’s future paradoxically swings in the other direction. Love on horseback arrives, and the rest is history. I think the point Woolf is trying to make is that of individuality. That we all MUST hang onto the quirks and stubbornesses and wills of our personality in order to maintain that ‘true’-self that will be loved, BUT… AT THE SAME TIME we have to understand how we as individuals fit into a larger order where others’ plans intercept our own. What we deem ‘morally right’ or ‘important’ or ‘necessary’ for ourselves doesn’t mean a rats ass to how the big guys think this place should be run. We have to adapt and hide what is wild to survive- but never, ever loose the core of dreaming which is what we suvive for. Don’t worry though; even though Orlando does marry, it isn’t written in a traditional way and in my opinion, doesn’t take away from any radical queerness. I don’t think finding a love that fits life diminishes their character in any way.

I won’t lie and say it is a straight-forward read, because for Woolf’s wit and elegance to truly be enjoyed you can’t just guzzle the words without tasting them. It isn’t a traditional or predictable story at all, but I think just the sheer quirkiness of the story and it’s characters means even if you don’t fully understand a fancy-shmancy sub-plot or how what is happening is even logically possible (trust- it is a wonderfully wierd book); sometimes it’s better to give yourself over to nonsense. The stranger things are, the more room for imaginative reasonings and resonations- the world needs people thinking outside the box!!!!

Give Orlando a quick google if I still haven’t sold it to you! But if you’ve read the book let me know and we can have a geeky chat about it!!!!

To finish, I shall leave you with a quote… nothing profound xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

“… clumsiness is often mated with a love of solitude.”
― Virginia Woolf, Orlando

Pocket Revolutionaries

Survival is difficult. I don’t mean Bear Gyrlls macho survival skills eating maggots or sleeping in a goat carcas. I mean the endurance of being able to wake up every day without instantly loosing hope in the world we inhabit as soon as your eyes scan the news. As soon as all the misogynistic/ racist/ classist/ general unwarranted cruelties all come to light, and you’re told “That’s just the way things are“.

I know that worrying about abuse and violence doesn’t prevent people suffering, but thinking is a start and the more you imagine the lives of others, the more unfathomable it seems to be able to ignore all the pain. Not imagining in some wierd voyeuristic, self-righteous way; I just mean, the more you think of others, the more potential for inciting a change of attitudes- which then hopefully leads to a decrease in the shittery that is ‘human nature’. 

This morning I woke up and did the mundane task of reading the newspaper with my orange juice ( I sound so bougie lol- its just my grandma likes to get the good old broadsheets still in their big flapping wings of paper). There was Windrush. There was the murder of Kim Wall (may you forever rest in peace xoxo). There were ambulance staff being sexually assulted and people in Nicaragua killed. The world is so beautiful because of it’s diversity; but this diversity and the incessantly shifting natures behind the diversity also means a huge pick’n’mix of the absolute worst parts of what we are capable of too. Reading all the stories didn’t armour me a thicker skin of acceptance, I didn’t try to make it make sense: I cried.

Crying is seen as something wimpy and that you should only do if absolutley nobody can see. Nope. Not for me. There’s nothing strong in denying, of repressing terror and fear in the name of blind comfort. Crying just means you care, a lot- and caring a lot is definatley something this world needs more of. But to return to my previous point: worrying incessantly does nothing to help those people whose lives you are invested in wanting to help. Putting obvious activism aside (‘obvious’= joining political parties, starting your own grass roots groups, protesting, donating to causes and signing petitions/ nagging politicans), I would like to propose another kind of activism that helps one cope with the world’s miseries without becoming an angry, detached, disillusioned shell: pocket revolution. The small, yet so so so necessary acts of kindness and understanding  that make the world- well, at least your patch of it- better.

POCKET REVOLUTION- my grandma hugging, not telling me off for being ‘too involved‘ with what I see in the world when I cry to the morning paper. The kind man who gave me a pink geranium after grandma and I admired his Tulips. It is smiling when the dogs cover me in dirty river water, not shouting at them. The mother whose pram I helped carry down the tube steps despite rushing crowds and the little girl who I made smile when I was feeding pidgins. Basically: not being afraid of strangers. Not being afraid to be childish and silly, or afriad to be the first one to say sorry. It is complimenting strangers and smiling because if Donald Trump/ Amber Rudd/ Theresa May/ Kim Jong Twat can hate people for no reason, then I am going to fucking try my very hardest to love people for no reason other than the fact you breathe and feel and eat and shit pretty much the same as me; but with a lot of interesting details I have no idea about (and that I would love to get to know over a cup of tea sometime).

I know I probably sound very righteous and I haven’t come up with any break through political rhetoric to destroy the montser of patriachal imperial capitalism… But I tried. And that is the point. We should at least try to try.

I was at the train station reading some poems after the newspaper, and the one I want to share is another example of what I would call pocket revolution by a Ghanaian poet, Joe De Graft called ‘An Un-African Breakfast’. His positivity made me feel stronger, and so I would love to spread the loveeee further. (it also kinda reminded me of my boyfriend in how happy Joe sounded despite all the world’s various brands of cruelty- both he and my luv are definatley pocket revolutionaries) xxoxoxoxoxoxox

AN UN-AFRICAN BREAKFAST 

So here I am this morning
Early in the Kitchen.

The aroma of fresh coffee on the boil,
Nose-filling aroma of good fresh coffee
on the boil;
And this kitchen is good to be in
And good to hear the browning water
babble-bubbling inside the glass-trap
head of the percolator;
And the good wife still asleep in her vono bed
Dreaming good dreams, I hope,
Of me!

All night the tummy hasn’t been well,
Running like it wanted nothing more
to do with me for eating what I
do not know-
All night a running tummy;
Till at last out of weariness
I drop into oblivion between 4 and 5
Quite unknowing –
Deep oblivion
Sweet as feathers…

Then crash out of nowhere
The white day comes bursting in
Through frosted louvres…..

And its good to be alive!

Good indeed to be alive,
So thank we god
For everything,
And the myriad sparrows
Chirrupping in the fresh morning sun outside
While the percolator bubbles……

(The poem is quite long, I can’t type the whole poem out but I highly highly highllllyyyy recommend reading his poetry, they are soul food)

To walk no longer invisible

Today I fulfilled a long hoped for pilgrimage with my family and drove up north through winding streets of small pubs and purple heather, finally reaching the Brontë parsonage at Haworth. I was supporting my fellow female writers, who wrote and wrote with hopes and hopes, not of celebrity as we consider it- but merely a future, a life where they could provide for their loved ones with a pen and sentences breathing.

The amazement of how small Charlotte’s feet were, the inked notebooks of poetry by Emily or Branwell’s smoked out figure amongst his sisters’ portrait, which he painted himself; Anne’s Scarborough pebble collection. These humdrum relics of their lives were so interesting and humbling to see, what with what knowledge we have realised now, that Branwell is more than a drunk and his sisters more than mere governesses; secret writers. They are no longer invisible, they are legendary.

I kept thinking of the contextual cruelty in which those animated and powerful women lived- a world of strict boundaries of who could and could not have money, when women were angels or whores- neither of whom deemed wise enough to yield a pen so mightily as a man. I am born in a world where, yes- many structures are still so fucked up and writhing with hatred and willed ignorance that it’s hard to fathom any progress sometimes; yet, here have I set gauntlet. Writing alone. My own pen. My own name.

I do not want to let go for granted what these intelligent, wholehearted women strove so hard to obtain. I am a savage, as Emily wrote- I am still half wild and free to play on the moors of my mind as I will. Thank God for books.

Today’s poem is by Emily, ‘No Coward Soul is Mine’ (A personal favourite along with ‘Remembrance‘). I presume the power she refers to here is the Christian “God”, but I like to interpret it as our own god; happiness seeded inside ourselves which twines and kindles with others who will it so, our determination to “choose not to suffer uselessly” (as Adrienne Rich wrote it). No coward souls were theirs, and neither is mine.

No Coward Soul is Mine

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear
O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest,
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity,
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears
Though earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee
There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

‘The stars do not care’

My absence from running this blog; trying to keep good habits (for writing or otherwise), ticking alongside attempts to live life in as happy and meaningful way possible have been rocky of late, all I can do is say ‘sorry’ and keep on going. True- I have been busy, but almost a 20 day long silence is not really justifiable as an excuse; when you love something, you defy excuses.

But I shall fill in the gaps.
My pink rose is no longer dead. I read Slaughterhouse- 5 in one night. My family threw me a birthday meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant, then the next day I went to the Transatlantic slavery memorial performances in Trafalgar Square with my cousin, Oscar; we went to the National Gallery and saw Van Gogh’s sunflowers, we sang Whitney Houston with a homeless artist from Sri Lanka who told us to look for Mother Mary. I drank Westons in a field with my best friend, then went to a poetry reading with another of my best friends and blew bubbles over our pints. I walked with Nelson and Pogo.

These details have no bearing whatsoever on anyone else’s life, so I question the feeling of needing to write them down, or anything, for that matter which isn’t purposeful and powerful and intelligent. I guess it boils down to a second voice; words create a world parallel yet intricately webbed in the physical senses, which in themselves warble and wane depending on one’s temperament- language causes a trembling which is and is not real, which uncoils translated through eyelashes as chrysalis births wings which flutter, to die within days.

This post basically just confirms I am not giving up on this quiet endeavour, hopefully it shall amount to something- but I guess one consolation is that at least it keeps one person out of too much trouble.

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These flowers have nothing to do with my writing, but fuck it life is random so here’s a little beauty to brighten things up :)))))

Today’s poem is by the legendary Audre Lorde, a beautiful soul who wouldn’t want me to stop doing this just because it seems the rest of the world seems more engrossed with big plastic tits and guns and sports cars.

Stations 

Some women love
to wait
for life    for a ring
in the June light    for a touch
of the sun to heal them    for another
woman’s voice    to make them whole
to untie their hands
put words in their mouths
form to their passages    sound
to their screams    for some other sleeper
to remember    their future    their past.

Some women wait for their right
train    in the wrong station
in the alleys of morning
for the noon to holler
the night come down.

Some women wait for love
to rise up
the child of their promise
to gather from earth
what they do not plant
to claim pain for labor
to become
the tip of an arrow    to aim
at the heart of now
but it never stays.

Some women wait for visions
That do not return
Where they were not welcome
Naked
For invitations to places
They always wanted
To visit
To be repeated.

Some women wait for themselves
Around the next corner
And call the empty spot peace
But the opposite of living
Is only not living
And the stars do not care.

Some women wait for something
To change    and nothing
Does change
So they change
Themselves.

 

Canines and Hijabs

I keep thinking how remarkable it is that a being with no audible voice in my life, with no tangible dexterity of any human language is capable of teaching me so much of Love. I am referring to Flush, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s pet spaniel who Virginia Woolf wrote a book about after reading the Browning’s love letters.

I watched many interesting talks today about Muslim women; whether the hijab is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (Personally, I no longer believe in ‘right’ or ‘wrong’- just kind and unkind, happy and unhappy- these things warp and change day to day, but they do not pretend to be as monolithic and grand as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ try to be), about the visibility of Muslim women and what it even means to be Muslim anymore in all the lies and stereotypes we are fed every day for the ends of perpetuating profit, blood money.

Just in case anyone’s interested, here are the talks I listened to-

  • What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman’s hijab? | Samina Ali | TEDxUniversityofNevada

  • What We Don’t Know About Europe’s Muslim Kids and Why We Should Care | Deeyah Khan | TEDxExeter

  • The Muslims You Cannot See | Sahar Habib Ghazi | TEDxStanford

 

  • The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

I think we should all try to be a bit more like Flush in these times when myth pervades over smiling at strangers in the street. When I watch my dogs on our walks, they never slow down to a pace of shyness when a new puppy lollops out on our horizon- my dogs sniff, they they circle and play; I like to imagine in human terms they would be saying “Hello fellow Soul, how do you do?

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The only reason monsters exist is because we make them. Which means we can also un-make them, and I guess that must start with ending fear. Understanding that each human, regardless and yet resulting from colour creed gender age etc ect, is a plethora of nerves and arbitrary intellects. No one is a closed book ending, we must stop conducting this society as if we are robots; we must think like dogs. I treasure what Virginia says: “Flush knew what man can never know- love pure; love simple, love entire; love that brings no train of care in its wake; that has no shame; no remorse; that is here, that is gone, as the bee on the flower is here and gone.” 

Today’s poem is by a Farsi poetess, Forough Farrokhzad- an Iranian modernist thinker whose poem ‘Born Again‘ is so beautiful and strong she gave me shivers, my arm hairs stood up on the tube. ‘Born Again‘ is rather long, so I didn’t want to include it here; instead here is ‘Gift‘… xoxoxoxoxoxooxox

Gift

I speak out of the deep of night
out of the deep of darkness
and out of the deep of night I speak.

If you come to my house, friend
bring me a lamp and a window I can look through
at the crowd in the happy alley. 

Forough Farrokhzad

A day, a holy nothingness

Today has been of no significance. No one else will remember it the same as me, perhaps no one will even read this blog apart from me- but writing should not be committed to merely seeking the result of an audience. It is a patchwork of the brain and heart- it is life’s shadow; I aim to live manifold breaths in the explosion of growing sentences, the tracks of letters scribbled on paper and screen.

Today I sang; “Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?.. give me love like never before… because I’m empty inside, I don’t wanna live but I’m too scared to die… all my hot girls with me, we dance around and bounce them titties!!!” I ate tuna salad and drank Ovaltine.

Once work was done earning money (I shall be discreet, and mention only that I work from home) I read more Virginia, ‘Flush’ in particular- the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s red pedigree cocker spaniel. I was with him learning how to navigate intimacy when you’re the one left stuttering as third wheel when your beloved drinks romance instead of air. He gave up the fields and sunlight for her, but Barrett still fell for Browning’s lemon yellow hand gloves. This dog’s lesson of life resonated still, still with me, a dumb human. “Hatred is not hatred; hatred is also love.” Anger means you care, and the fact I un-followed my ex’s instagram account (FINALLY) must mean that some archaic form of love is waning. I danced in the fields wearing pyjamas walking with Nelson and Pogo, rapping terribly and not caring. Love does not die, for it is an energy formed of stardust and energy does not cease. It just returns; creates a sort of equilibrium. He took it all and now it seems to be coming home, like how birds migrate across oceans. I no longer have to take anti-depressants. I hope hope can tattoo itself on my child core.

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Today’s poem is not my own, but one by 19th C. Turkish poet Leyla Hanim ( I found this poem in an old anthology of women poets I brought with my grandma for £2) – she ended her marriage before a week’s end and outraged the moralists of her day; my kind of woman xoxoxoxo

Let’s get going,
Start the festivities, 
Never mind what they say.

Drink wine 
With your loved one, 
Never mind what they say.

What do I care
If people approve or disapprove?
God bless my friends, 
Never mind what they say.

Leyla, indulge in pleasure
With your lovely friend:
Enjoy yourself in this world,
Never mind what they say.